There is lots of talk about forming an EU army and some of the countries behind it have a long history of trying to get a regional form of the idea off the ground.
One hundred years ago, the president of the newly formed Poland, Jozef Pilsudski tried to get a confederation of Central and Eastern European states together. Called the Intermarium, it literally meant “between-the-seas” referring to the countries between the Baltic and Black seas.
In theory, this would unite the smaller countries into a superpower that the rest of Europe and Asia would have to reckon with economically and militarily.
This idea appeals to current Polish president Andrej Duda who wants to pursue this under the auspice of the Visegrad 4 Group. This group is a loose alliance of Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia already working together in Central Europe and they are the biggest supporters of developing a European Army. The alliance sees itself adding to the European security structures that exist already in a subordinate role, not replacing existing coalitions.
Under Duda, the group would ultimately seek to add every country that has a border with Russia today. Not every country in the current group shares that border and therefore don’t see the need for added expenses.
Countries like Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are already NATO members and joining a new confederation could complicate their position. Adding non-NATO members like Ukraine to the pot is one of the largest complicating factors.
Ukraine wants to sever ties and increase conflict with its eastern neighbor and Europe wants to pursue economic relationships. The potential is there for multiple layered Euro-centric treaties to have a cascade effect dragging unwitting countries into conflict with Russia in a similar fashion to how all the secret treaties in the WWI era were responsible for making that war possible.
The Visegrad 4 Group version of an EU army would be strictly for internal security, not foreign excursions. Poland and the Czech Republic are to firmly entrenched in NATO for anything more meaningful to come into being on a pan European scale. Every serious call to build an army is in response to the immigrant crisis now gripping Europe. The force would simply be a glorified border patrol.
With that as an aside, who are the winners and who are the losers if the EU builds an army?
The Intermarium concept was conceived specifically to keep Russia out of Europe. While this might sound like just the thing Europe wants, building an EU army could have just the opposite effect. Ultimately an EU army will negate the need for NATO.
This puts the responsibility for defending Europe back on European shores and not at the Pentagon in the US. Because NATO leadership is American and the US puts up 70% of NATO’s budget, the United States has the power and the will to decide which countries are threats to Europe and which are not.
In a commentary by Jean-Pierre Maulny, the most obvious factors favoring the eventual building of an army are laid out. No single European country can afford to protect itself completely in the new century. By combining resources, Europe might have the means to face potential threats in the future.
From RT, “The people in charge are all far away, across the big pond,” says Aleksandr Zhilin, a military expert and President of the Center for Research of Applied Social Problems.
We can negotiate with Germany, France, Italy and the like all we want, and seem to have a good relationship. And then suddenly there’s an order from the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Get in your tanks and march on Russia! Why did we even talk to them in the first place?”
In this sense an EU army is a plus for Europe because it instills all the bonuses of self-reliance, not having to rely on the US. Europe decides who its friends or business partners are and who is not.
Europe and the Russian Federation are natural trading partners whether it’s the energy sector (natural gas and oil), technology, or agricultural products; Europe would much rather have Russia as a trading partner than an enemy.
Russia would benefit because Europe is its closest markets. There is everything to lose for Russia and nothing to gain in the current political climate. So, in this sense, we have the potential winners.
The biggest loser in this scenario is the USA.
Keeping control over NATO means having control over European politics and economics in at least a limited sense. A weak or retiring NATO would put Europe on more equal terms negotiating with the US even over tariffs and such.
The Visegrad 4 would lose any real significance if the EU army were to see the light of day. They are in no position to lead it and would have limited influence.
How serious is the European army movement?
Currently, the US spends more on NATO than Germany, France, UK, Italy, France, and Canada combined. While Donald Trump wants NATO partners to pay their fair share and increase payments and personnel, this is far less than starting an army from scratch.
It would mean developing all-new capabilities Europe relies on the US for. This includes governance, leadership, technology, and methods. All of this leads to the big straw that gets pulled which is funding. Starting an EU army in the near term would be financially very painful for all involved.
This leads us to conclude the only reason to start the discussion is purely political. With the UK leaving the European Union, there is less friction to increasing security spending in general. It is also a much-needed means of showing Europeans the European Union contributes to their lives and now is the time to support it.
Although many analysts are saying there is a 50% chance it will happen, right now, the drawbacks outweigh the pluses by too great a margin. Let’s face it, if you were a European leader, would you want to attract Donald Trump’s ire?